As Vanessa and I talked about the series she wrote for us last month on childhood cancer, we wanted to wrap it up with some tangible suggestions for how you can be an encouragement to families traveling this very long and very hard path. Vanessa delivered (as usual) and gave us 75 ways we can be a blessing. She rocks.
Were you glad for a break last Monday? For something lighter to read about than childhood cancer and survival rates and babies whose heart stop in the car. It’s ok if you were. I was glad for a break too. There’s only so much the heart can take. I didn’t want to leave you all on such a sad note, though.
Last week, one of the 10 Strong mommas checked into the hospital with her little boy for a week long stay. He’s fighting Stage 4 neuroblastoma and was there for a round of antibody therapy. On Sunday night she texted me that she was bummed because she usually brings her coffee pot from home when she knows they’ll be there for awhile, but this time she forgot it. So Monday morning I took her my Keurig and some K cups and a mug. Because if being in the hospital with your baby boy for a week isn’t enough, the horrible coffee they have there makes it almost too much to bear.
My little trip to the hospital to drop off a coffee pot got me thinking of all the kind things people have done for us while Brock was in therapy; big and small. I wanted to share them with you so that you can be a blessing to someone who needs it. I want to encourage you to encourage others. Cancer treatment is long and hard. For the first year of Brock’s treatment, we weren’t home more than 2 weeks at a time. Ever. We literally lived in the hospital for months and months at a time. That made it all but impossible to accomplish even the easiest tasks…getting the oil changed in the car, mowing the yard, going to the grocery store, buying Christmas presents. There is just not TIME for these things when one child is living in the hospital, one child is living at home, one parent is working, and both parents are trying to give their children everything they need. It’s hard y’all, is what I’m saying. And it’s long. Brock received chemo for 3.5 years. All of the help we got in the beginning was equally appreciated at the end.
YOU can be a blessing. Here’s how:
1. Drop off a case of bottled water at the hospital.
2. Give a Visa gift card – something that can be used on gas, hospital cafeteria food, groceries, whatever.
3. Let your kids paint a picture to brighten up the hospital room.
4. Deliver it with cupcakes.
5. Take a home cooked meal to the hospital.
6. Take a home cooked meal to their house.
7. Text them to let them know you’re thinking about them.
8. Stop and pray WITH them instead of telling them you will be praying FOR them.
9. Don’t take a gift to the sick child without taking something equally as exciting for their siblings.
10. Mow their yard for them. Or, ummm…have your husband mow their yard.
11. Buy an extra bag of groceries while you’re shopping and leave it at their house.
12. Show up after the kids’ bedtime with a bottle of wine (if they’re home) or a Dr. Pepper (if they’re in the hospital).
13. Take lunch to the hospital. Many times it’s just 1 parent and the child in the room and it’s impossible for the mom or dad to leave the room and find something to eat.
14. Lend them your Keurig while they’re in the hospital. Hospital coffee is the worst.
15. Bring K cups and a cute mug also.
16. Offer to take the healthy siblings on a play date with your kids.
17. Wrap their Christmas presents for them.
18. Give money. Treatment is expensive. Money always helps.
19. Send cards to the child and their siblings.
20. Talk to them about normal things – anything. It’s exhausting to only answer questions about cancer and treatment.
21. Plant flowers at their house.
22. Do their laundry. Pretend you didn’t see and touch and fold their underwear.
23. Call and have pizza delivered to the hospital.
24. When they tell you the diagnosis say “That sucks.”
25. Don’t say “I know everything will be ok.” You don’t.
26. Do you have an old laptop/iPod/iPad that you’ve been meaning to sell? Give it to them.
27. Buy an extra latte when you drive through Starbucks on your way to work and take it by the hospital.
28. Don’t ever bring them a bologna sandwich for lunch. I’m just saying….
29. Do bring dessert.
30. Make them laugh.
31. Don’t stop coming around just because you don’t know what to say. Admit you don’t know what to say and then just be there.
32. Cry with them.
33. Start a GiveForward fundraiser for them.
34. Get your friends together and pool money to hire a weekly cleaning service.
35. Take books to the hospital. For the kid. For the parents.
36. Drop off/pick up their dry cleaning.
37. Feed their dogs (or cats or chickens or goldfish).
38. Anonymously pay utility bills.
39. Take DVDs to the hospital.
40. Or buy them a Netflix subscription.
41. Put lights on their house at Christmas.
42. If you are a stylist and they are your regular clients, do their hair for free.
43. Stop by the pharmacy for them.
44. Don’t ask “How’s your child?” Especially if you’re just passing each other in the hallway at church. It’s too broad of a question and it’s too hard to answer.
45. Do ask specific questions. “How’s physical therapy going?” “When does the next round of chemo start?” “How did the last surgery go?”
46. If they have a blog, follow it. It’s much easier on the family to post one update than to have to repeat themselves over and over and over.
47. Donate clothes or toys that your kids have outgrown. Every little bit helps.
48. When they go on their Make-A-Wish trip, enlist your church small group to clean, organize, and decorate their entire house without them knowing. Including buying them new furniture. (Unless they love their furniture. But ummm…we didn’t. So this ranks at the top of the List of Kind Things people have done for us.)
49. Give an iTunes or Amazon gift card.
50. Clean the carpets in their house.
51. Take breakfast to the hospital.
52. Do anything and everything to make the healthy siblings feel special. It’s hard being the brother or sister of a kid with cancer. Hard.
53. When they have an unexpected hospital stay, stop by their house and get clothes and a toothbrush for them.
54. Do not ever ask “What’s his prognosis?”
55. Set up a Care Calendar for meals.
56. Organize a fundraiser (silent auction, spaghetti dinner, golf tournament, etc.)
57. Donate tickets to a sporting event for the child and their family.
58. Just spend TIME at the hospital with them. It gets lonely up there.
59. Create a gift registry for the child’s hospital room. New bedding, pjs, robes, slippers, movies, cds, iPod dock, lamp, decorations. Some kids spend months at a time in the hospital and these things make a HUGE difference.
60. Take a cozy blanket to the hospital for the parents. Sleeping in a pull out bed with hospital linens gets old.
61. Send balloons to the hospital for the child.
62. Offer to take/pick up the healthy siblings from school/church/gymnastics/dance/karate.
63. Sponsor a pair of Peach’s Neet Feet for the child.
64. Take a basket of snacks to the hospital.
65. If the program is not already at the hospital, request a Chemo Duck for the child. (They’re FREE!)
66. Stock the parents’ freezer with meals.
67. Give the child a nook (or kindle or ds or whatever they’d love).
68. Buy the healthy siblings the book Hi, My Name is Jack.
69. Change the oil in the parents car.
70. Offer to babysit, either in their home or at the hospital, so the parents can have some time alone together.
71. Offer to teach the mom a simple and portable craft (knitting, crocheting, etc.) It helps to have something to DO while you wait on labs/xrays/scans/rounds/surgery.
72. Organize a blood drive to benefit the child.
73. Give the family an outdoor play set. Public play areas aren’t an option for kids in treatment.
74. Facetime with the child.
75. Say “I’m bringing you dinner Tuesday night.” instead of “Let me know if you ever need something.”
I’m so honored that Jeannett let me use her space to tell you about my child…about my friends’ children….about what we did to try to make a difference for other children through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Our goal was to raise $50,000 for pediatric cancer research and I’m proud to say we surpassed that goal. It couldn’t have been done without your help!
Life.Rearranged readers donated $2,700!
Thank you. Thank you. A hundred times, thank you.
And with that, sweet readers, we leave the series on childhood cancer on a note of empowerment.
Cancer is the worst. Ever.
Cancer in babies…has it’s own category of awful that I’m pretty sure no word in the English language would suffice.
But now you can be a Help. A Blessing. An Encouragement
You and I may not be able to cure cancer, but we can help be a balm to the very tired soul of a mama.
Love all of you.